|Texas faces surprising rush leader in UCF's Kevin Smith|
|Written by Admin|
|Thursday, 13 September 2007 15:35|
He enters this week as the nation's leading per-game rusher after a 217-yard season opener and an off week. But Smith's team is a big underdog - and facing a lot better defense than UCF is accustomed to in No. 6 Texas.
``Our main goal on defense is to stop the run and then try to force them to pass the ball,'' Longhorns safety Marcus Griffin said.
Smith, a 6-foot-1, 211-pound junior from Miami, slipped to 934 yards last season after rushing for nearly 1,200 in 2005 - second-best in the country for a true freshman. He missed two games in 2006 with a shoulder injury and another for disciplinary reasons.
Smith said he expects the Longhorns (2-0) to stack the line, but hoped it will open up the passing game.
``They got a big defensive front. I got a big offensive line,'' Smith said. ``Being that we have success running the ball, I think that they're going to key on us, the run game. I think that (quarterback) Kyle Israel is going to have a big game this week, and the receiving corps.''
Of course, Texas has had its own success running the ball. Jamaal Charles has rushed for 246 yards on 49 attempts - a 5-yard average.
The Longhorns said they will use fewer shotgun formations, which sophomore QB Colt McCoy hopes will improve the run.
``A lot of the stuff that we do can be run under the center or in the shotgun,'' McCoy said. ``I feel comfortable in both, and whatever is going to help us run the football is what is going to work for this team. When we can run the ball, we can throw the ball.''
McCoy has struggled a little, throwing four interceptions in two games after just seven in 13 last year.
Israel, a junior, is in his first full season as a starter for UCF. He completed 12 of 24 passes in the opener but netted just 93 yards.
``He needs to just do what he does and stop trying to do things he does not do,'' UCF coach George O'Leary said. ``I think that is where he got himself in trouble in the last game. He was trying to create situations. Let the call take care of where your reads are at, do not innovate too much and deliver the ball on time.''
Smith had a school-record 80-yard touchdown run on the first play from scrimmage against North Carolina State, and 177 yards by halftime. He knows he will be forced to grind out smaller rushes on more plays against Texas.
He will also probably fall from his perch as the nation's leading rusher after this game. Rutgers' Ray Rice leads the nation with 359 in two games.
``I don't expect to go out there and run for 80 yards on the first play. I want to, but I don't expect it to happen,'' Smith said. ``I expect to get little by little. I'm going to take what they give me and in the fourth quarter I expect for us to wear them down. That's when the long runs will come.''
They might come, if UCF can stick around that long. The Knights nearly squandered a 25-3 halftime lead against the Wolfpack, squeaking away with a two-point win after failing to score in the second half.
Texas did the opposite last week, coming back from a 10-0 deficit against the Horned Frogs to win 34-13.
UCF will have the emotional advantage of playing its first game in a new, on-campus stadium - and before the school's first sellout. The Knights played nearly three decades in the aging downtown Citrus Bowl, never drawing a consistent student crowd.
``We have nothing to lose,'' Smith said. ``We can go out there and let it all hang out and see what we get. I think this is our time to prove we can play with anybody at this level, and we've got to go out there and do it.''